Cutting Edge Metal Manufacturing
Ask Dug Wilson, Business Development Manager at Wesgar Industries where he would like to see the company in 10 to 15 years and his response is quick – “Bigger, better, faster, stronger.” And by all indications, the course has been set for just that.
Celebrating 50 years this year, Wesgar Industries delivers on its promise of quality products, target pricing and on time delivery to over 50 customers in Canada, the United States and Mexico. As western Canada’s largest precision sheet metal manufacturer and value added service provider, Wesgar Industries prides itself on being the first company to introduce automated punching technology to the region and being known as a complete solution provider to customers.
Headquartered in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Wesgar Industries employs over 200 individuals. The company believes that its investments in skilled employees and the latest manufacturing equipment, as well as its commitment to secure strategic partnerships with customers and suppliers, have assured the company’s longevity in a very competitive market.
Initially, Wesgar Industries produced its own sheet metal components for the technology and electronic industries. The company later became a contract manufacturer as the telecommunications industry in Canada started to boom. Some companies in B.C.’s lower mainland didn’t have their own manufacturing capabilities, necessitating the need for subcontracting.
“As a result of that, the contract manufacturing industry as we know it was developed here in the Lower Mainland,” explains Dug. “Because we’re a contract manufacturer, every customer has their own quality requirements. We meet those expectations. That’s all that our customers ask us to do.”
Wesgar Industries manufactures a wide range of products, from low volume custom components to mid volume complex assemblies. One hundred percent of its products are manufactured to customers’ specifications, and Wesgar Industries is ISO 9001 certified. “We also have our aerospace quality designation (AS9100 revision C),” adds Dug. “We can develop the internal capability for complexity… the more complex it is, the more time it takes to be able to roll that complexity into our manufacturing. If it has anything to do with our core capabilities we can do as complex as anybody,” he says. “Our ISO program for the majority of our products ensures that requirements are met.”
The company strives to ensure that lean manufacturing and continuous improvement practices are implemented so that diverse industry customers realize cost effectiveness in their manufacturing processes. “A lot of times we give [customers] suggestions to change their design so that it takes time or material out of the manufacturing process,” Dug affirms.
Although Wesgar Industries is essentially a sheet metal manufacturer, it is flexible in its service offering dependent on product specifications. The company has a machine shop in-house where machining, welding and painting can be done on any type of material. The company does structural work as well. “It really depends on the customer requirements,” explains Dug. “If we don’t have the capability to do it, we do subcontract the things that we don’t do in-house.”
Securing a Competitive Edge
A strong knowledge base is considered one of a company’s most valuable resources; this is especially true when considering how quality control standards and technology have transformed the nature of the manufacturing industry. Wesgar Industries realizes that in order to maintain its competitive edge it must invest in technologies and quality control systems that allow customers to get the job done when and how they need it to the best of industry standards. Wesgar utilizes innovative CNC (Computer Numerical Control) equipment and quality control systems that include PPAP (Production Part Approval Process) and CMM (a Coordinate Measuring Machine), ensuring that customers receive the utmost in product quality.
Investing heavily in a deep knowledge base is essential to success in the industry and, “Because this is a relatively competitive business, we are constantly looking at ways to make things better,” says Dug. “We invest in the appropriate technologies to be able to provide our customers with the quality, the timeliness and the pricing that they need for their parts. We’re very vertically integrated. Over the years we have basically brought in almost all of the capabilities that most of our customers need in order for us to be able to control almost all aspects of production in-house.” This capacity enables quality control and reduces setbacks arising from handling or logistics.
Dug further explains that Wesgar utilizes flexible manufacturing equipment – meaning that even rush jobs can be accommodated by changing tooling quickly. For some punches the tooling may have to be changed 10 times a day. “Every job requires different tools,” he says. “We’re very capable.” He goes on to note that the company manufactures for Fortune 500 and Global 100 companies and that, “the parts that we make are probably a little bit more prone to change and revisions and need a bit more flexibility… it really depends on the customer and their product.”
An industry such as Wesgar’s necessitates lot of thinking outside the box. Previously, skilled workers had much of the knowledge in their heads, but now machines “are capable of providing 70 to 80 percent of the output without having the knowledge,” says Dug. “The accuracy is so much more improved with technology, and using all the different tools [such as] lean tools and applying common sense where it really needs to be applied lets us do things smarter.”
However, he does stress that, “People will always be our biggest asset… You can’t take people out of the equation.” Although repetitive processes are more efficient using the mechanical advantage, “People will always be needed to make that efficiency possible.”
Wesgar Industries also has a robust in-house training program, ensuring that all employees have the skill sets to fulfill all requirements. The company also aims to employ those with the right cultural fit and quality mindset. “Really that’s the most important,” adds Dug. “Everything else is trainable in-house. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we are very inclusive. We work hard to include people with disabilities in the manufacturing, where they can.”
Speaking to the future of Wesgar Industries, Dug stresses the importance of building strong working partnerships with customers. “We’re always needing to do the very best that we can for our customers in order to keep them competitive. As long as our customers remain competitive in their markets, then our future looks good.”